If you’re a regular subscriber to Elated, you may have noticed a distinct lack of updates for the last few months. Here’s why.
In 2011 and 2012, elated.com was badly affected by Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates. The result was that traffic to our site dropped to less than one quarter of its original level. You can see the effect of these updates in the graph below:
Punch in the stomach
Traffic is the lifeblood of most websites, and Elated is no exception. We’ve been building our site’s audience since 1997. For a long time, our traffic came from a fairly wide variety of sources: Yahoo!, AltaVista (remember them?), other search engines, and links from directories, resource pages, and articles. Over the last decade, this ecosystem of traffic sources has been largely replaced by one source: Google search. So when Google’s search algorithm decides one day that your site is no longer worthy of traffic, the rug is pretty much pulled out from under you.
This sharp traffic drop has had two effects on us. First, it’s caused a corresponding drop in revenue. Elated just about survived thanks to revenue from both advertising and product sales, and 25% of the traffic means, broadly speaking, 25% of the revenue. Back in 2011, Elated was just starting to make financial sense; now, not so much.
But perhaps the biggest effect is the “punch in the stomach”. When you’ve spent 15(!) years building up an audience for your site — only to have most of it taken away from you overnight (twice) — it kind of takes the wind out of your sails. What’s the point in continuing to spend 20-30 hours crafting a thorough, high-quality article on web development or design, when only a quarter of your previous audience — that you worked so hard to build — will read it?
This is why we haven’t posted new content on Elated for a while. It doesn’t make sense financially, and our hearts are no longer in it.
We’re not blaming Google for this at all. They’re a business, they make money, and they have to do what they believe is in the best interests of their customers and shareholders. There are a lot of spammy sites out there trying to game Google’s search algorithms, and they have to counter that somehow. Elated just got caught in the crossfire.
How did this happen?
Why was Elated so badly affected by the Panda and Penguin updates? Of course, it’s impossible to say, because Google keeps its algorithms secret.
One theory we have with the Penguin update centres around our free website templates, called PageKits, that we used to offer on the site for download. Each template included a link back to elated.com in the footer. Frankly, that seemed fair enough to us at the time — credit where credit’s due, and many other web template designers did the same thing. But these days, it sounds like Google might consider this a “link scheme“:
Widely distributed links in the footers or templates of various sites
We were doing this since 1998, before paid “link schemes” were widespread. We put the links there simply to encourage people to credit us for the templates. We also hoped to get some traffic from visitors liking the designs and clicking through to check out our templates, but in no way were we trying to manipulate the search engines. However, times change, and these days it seems that such practices might be frowned upon by Google — and, in the case of paid links, rightly so. Unfortunately for Elated, Google presumably has no “intent” detector — it can’t tell the difference between innocently asking people to credit your site, and deviously attempting to game the search engines.
You might be thinking, “No problem, just get those links removed!” However, our free templates have been downloaded and used thousands and thousands of times in the last 15 years. To get an idea of just a small sample of the pages that use these footer links, try searching Google for “elated.com/pagekits.com” (including quotes). To compound the problem, the majority of these sites are well over 5 years old; many of them are abandoned and hosted on freehosts like GeoCities and Tripod (yes they’re still going!); and it’s often impossible to find an email address to contact the webmaster. We have tried getting a few hundred of these footer links removed, but it’s like getting blood out of a stone. If you’re lucky, 1 in 50 webmasters will actually take action.
In addition, all the work to get the links removed could be pointless anyway — we don’t know that the footer links are the problem. For example, there are millions of forum pages out there with “Powered by phpBB” and “Powered by vBulletin” in their footers, and we haven’t heard of those two sites being hit by Penguin. So who knows?
As to the Panda update — which was meant to weed out “low-quality content” — we’ve no idea what the problem was there. Maybe our content is genuinely low-quality. You be the judge!
So what now?
What does this all mean for the future of Elated? Despite Panda and Penguin, Elated still contains hundreds of useful articles and tutorials that are read by thousands of people a day, and that are referenced from many other articles and pages in Q&A sites such as Stack Overflow. It seems a shame to flip the switch and shut the site down.
So our plan is to effectively mothball the site for now. We won’t be adding any more new content for the foreseeable future, but the existing content that is on here can stay. If, at some point in the future, the wind changes and the Google gods look favourably upon Elated again, then we may start producing more content again. Never say never, and all that.
If you’ve been a regular reader of Elated for the last 17 days, 17 months or even 17 years, we’d like to say a huge thank-you for sticking with us over this time. We hope that one day we’ll be able to provide you with even more of the great content that you’ve come to know and love.
Simon and Matt
It’s a general thing with ALL “web stuff” related forum and sites, one forum I admin at I gets about four posts a day now, and I delete three of those as spam, two or three years ago fifty to a hundred per day was usual. (webmasterground.com)
webmaster-talk.com was getting two – three hundred posts every day and dropped off to twenty or thirty in the space of a couple of days
A lot of is the evolution of the Internet;
bulletin boards gave way to discussion forum and simply died off.
Now discussion forums are giving way to ‘blogs’ and ‘social’ media.
Eventually blogs and social media will dies off in favour of the next trend.
Nobody is looking for “Page Kits” anymore they want WordPress or Joomla! templates and rather than the footer links ‘hurting’, ninety percent of them probably don’t exist any more.
Simon & Matt, I am so sorry!
@chrishirst: True, true. The internet moves pretty quickly. That said, most of our traffic (and therefore most of the lost traffic) comes to the blog side of Elated. The forums have never been that high-traffic.
Maybe you’re right that 90% of the footer links are gone, but there are still 40,000+ of them showing up in GWT! :-/
As always Chris, thanks so much for helping out on our forums for all this time. I’m not sure what to do about the forums now tbh. Leave them as-is? Leave existing topics there, but prevent any new posts? Any thoughts?
@Arthur_AJ: Thanks man 🙂
Unfortunately you can’t always go by Webmaster Tools because Google do keep long dead URLs in their index. They take the 404 response to extremes.
Locking the forums down so they cannot become a haven for the link droppers was what we decided to do at SearchBliss, that went into the doldrums around the same time. It was almost as if there had been some secret signal had been given to all Internet users that said “Right! The time for webmaster forums and blogs is over and you stop visiting them today, a bit like the dinosaurs dying out in what was by geological time scales almost overnight.
It’s just puzzling how practically every site in a particular marketplace went from ‘green and fertile’ to ‘arid and lifeless’ in a matter of days.
Even the normally frenetic pace of the scammers and spammers hijacking each other threads at DP hit a new low.
What a complete bummer. I for one have learnt so much from elated and my first website was based on a page kit that you so kindly made available. I am sorry to hear how the web changes have impacted on you both professionally and personally. Don’t be too down-hearted guys; entrepreneurs such as yourselves will always be successful because they adapt to new things.
The way the web works now isn’t a setback for you; it’s a challenge. There will always be support for people who give to others and elated has always done that.
My best wishes to you and to your future health and success. Oh, and THANK YOU.
You two are the reason I decided on the internet and programming (back in the 90s) as a secondary then primary source of income. Tips ‘n’ Tricks, PageKits, and one on one adviceâ€”all free! (Plus another long gone site once called ‘NavWorks.’) Again, thank you so much! Please do not give up guys. If you can still find a place for ‘Elated’ in your work and personal lives… I would be elated! 🙂
Thanks for the kind words everyone!
This is so upsetting to read. This site virtually launched my career in web design/development and ironically, SEO. I learned via the PageKits and my first sites were based on them. I would have never continued if it weren’t for Elated. Many years later I am now working for a top agency on major brands from Coca-Cola to Microsoft.
I had a moment of nostalgia today and thought to check out the site and came across this article. I have also worked to remove penalties from sites hit by Google updates and I know how frustrating it can be. I understand Google is also a business and will work in its best interest, but this is personally disheartening.
Thanks for everything you guys have offered and good luck with all future endeavors. Shame on Google for this.
@brookshadden: Thanks for your support – great to hear that Elated has helped so many people over the years. 🙂
I’ve been following this site for the last year. So sorry to hear whats happened.
I’ve used your tutorials to give me an understanding of CMS’s and increase my PHP knowledge. Rather than a ‘help me’ post, I thought it might be nice to see what you have helped me achieve/learn!
adamtoms.co.uk is running off your original CMS tutorial. Its grown into a small CMS capable of powering my webste, fulfilling my want to learn PHP.
Would love to show you the admin panel… Contact me for the details if your keen 🙂
Best wishes for the future,
@atoms: Thanks for your comment – that’s great to hear. Your site looks really good 🙂
Come back for us we are waiting for you.
Thanks a lot.
@jatin333: Thank you 🙂
Simon & Matt,
This site has served for almost two decades to web community. Now, if a reputed site like elated.com goes down, then that will be a negative signal to other web starters.
One thought. Google explicitly says that mobile-friendliness has direct effect in their search result listing.
So, don’t just give up. Please try to make elated mobile friendly. Hope this will bring the old readers again.
Best of luck & Regards,
Thanks Examtiger! This happened a long time before Google started downranking non-mobile-friendly sites. Our site is also not mobile-friendly, but because of Penguin it’s not worth our while redesigning it at this stage.
How unfortunate for us. You have a gift I hope to see more of in the future.
@pickedaname: Thanks mate 🙂